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Arcade Classics: Time Pilot

  • Time Pilot - Official thread
    This is the second installment in a series of discussions that each highlight a single arcade classic. I may be the only one starting these (as a followup to the MAME ROW selections). The goal of this series is to share game tactics, configuration recommendations, stories and general nostalgia--in addition to posting highscores.

    Game Name: Time Pilot
    Company: Konami
    Year: 1982
    ROM file name:


    References (optional):
    This game was selected as the MAME Random game Of the Week (MAME ROW)#51
    Overlays available for both Konami and Atariu versions in the Overlay Repo.

    Time Pilot is a vertically-oriented single-player (or two-player taking turns) shooter in which you fly a modern jet fighter through time against enemies from each era of aviation. A single 8-way joystick controls your plane while a pushbutton fires 3 consecutive shots forward. Your plane remains centered on the screen as you steer, and although you can only point it in 8 directions, turning the plane allows it to sweep through each direction to align with your joystick. This allows shots to reach many different angles as you fire and turn. After defeating a requisite number of enemies from one time period, a mother ship appears. These take multiple shots to destroy and when you do, you will move forward in time.

    The game starts in 1910 against biplanes, then progresses through the decades with each wave requiring different strategies.

    Additional Info:
    3 versions actually exist:
    Centuri and Konami (original) have similar graphics with slightly different marquee.
    Atari's (UK and Ireland) cabinet is (was) totally different.

    Time Pilot plays well on the Raspberry Pi using lr-mame2003 with CRT-PI shader enabled. It also supports cocktail mode which can be enabled via DIP switches. This allows player 1 and 2 to sit opposite each other (for cabinets with appropriate control panels) and the game will automatically flip upside-down between players. As it is a 1980s classic, Time Pilot works in other versions of MAME as well.


    • Joystick Control - As stated above, Time Pilot uses an 8-way joystick. Flight direction is absolute, meaning, the plane flies where you point it. However, it will make sweeping turns as you change directions. This can take some getting used to. Normally, the plane turns through the shortest arc possible, but you if you suddenly flip directions by crossing through 180 degrees (say, from straight up to straight down), the plane will still turn in an arc--but you can't predict whether it will turn left or right! Instead, always sweep your joystick in an arc to turn. This ensures the plane will follow your lead. You can also let go of the stick during a turn and the plane will stay pointed in that direction.

    • Trigger - Shots are fired three at a time with a single button press. Continuous fire is possible by rapidly pressing the button, but there's no need to do this as fast as you can. The plane cannot fire faster than the three shots, so as long as your next button press occurs before the fourth shot, the plane fires continuously.

    • Aiming - Since the plane only seems to fly straight in eight directions, one would think that shot direction follows suit, however, this isn't technically true. If you release the stick during a turn, you can get the plane to fly at an odd angle between the 8 directions you would expect. You can also fire between the the flight paths as your plane arcs from one direction to another. This allows you to hit enemies as you turn past them, not when they are only dead-ahead. You can strafe by adopting a zig zaging pattern. Rather than flying in a straight line, vary your flight path to cover more area with shots.

    • Parachutes - A parachute will occasionally appear, always falling from top to bottom. These can be worth a lot of points in the game, so always try to catch them. They cannot be shot, which allows you to lay down cover fire as you approach. Don't let a parachute move off the screen or it will disappear. If you are able to capture several parachutes in a row without dying, they will increase in value up to 5000 points!

    • Flight Path - In general, flying your plane into the upper corners is a good strategy for early waves. Since parachutes always fall from above, you will cross their paths more easily and be less likely to let them wander off the screen. As planes go by, they will often turn to follow you. If you continue on the same flight path for a while, it is best to circle and clean up the followers. You may need to turn quickly to catch a parachute and having a group of followers means extra shots in the air and the extra traffic can prove fatal. Each wave may require some variation to this idea, especially when shots (missles) can follow you too!

    • Incoming Formations - Inbound enemies fly at you individually or in groups, but sometimes they appear locked in attack formation. Whenever this happens, an alarm sound is heard. If you can shoot them all down before they break formation, you get an extra award of 2000 points. This is definitely worth the effort, although if you let them leave the screen, you won't be able to get back to them all and you miss the bonus. Also, even though you can still take them out as they go by, if you wait too long the formation breaks up and you won't get the bonus.

    • Bombers, etc. - On some waves, a larger aircraft will appear. These fly in a straight horizontal path, so they are relatively easy to follow. Like the final enemy in a wave, they take multiple hits to destroy but you get a 1500 points so they are worth it.

    • 1910 Biplanes - For the first stage of the game, flying into an upper corner works well. Planes can drop bombs, but these travel downwards so fall quickly out of the way. Enemies may attack in formation. You can earn more points for destroying all planes in the formation.

    • 1940 WWII Prop Fighters - These enemies are a little faster than the biplanes and only fire shots, but extra points are awarded again if you destroy an entire formation. Again, flying into upper corners works well, especially for grabbing parachutes. This wave adds a large brown bomber which is easy to kill with multiple shots and well worth the effort for 1500 points.

    • 1970 Helicopters - It gets harder to maintain a corner flight path because the helicopters can fire heat-seeking missiles. The best way to avoid them is to make circular turns. They will eventually drop off, but it is better to shoot them down immediately, as more than one missile on the screen is a difficult problem.

    • 1982 Jets - This is supposed to be "present day" when the game was released. The jets are fast--faster than you, actually--but because of this, they have a wider turn radius. Although you cannot outrun them, you can out maneuver them. They too shoot missiles, but these are more accurate than the previous decade.

    • 2001 Flying Saucers - The retro-futuristic depiction of combat in the new millennium includes flying saucers. Whether these are earth-born opponents or extra-terrestrial invaders is unclear. What is clear, however, is that this is the most difficult wave. Enemies can fire both straight line shots and heat-seekers--both of which can be shot and destroyed. Completing this wave will launch you back to 1910.

    • So-called "Hunting" - It is possible to ignore level advancement and simply continue in a wave by avoiding the mother ships. You can practice by never leaving a given era, possibly racking up kills, catching parachutes, or simply dominating an era with your superior skills and firepower. However, in our experience, the parachutes stop coming at the end of a level.

    Time Pilot also has a sequel: Time Pilot '84 which is worth checking out if you like the original.

    Highscores, comments etc.
    Post comments, highscores (screenshots) and game-related stories below!

  • Here is my high score:


  • Boom, @caver01 ! 159.600! :)

    alt text

  • @andershp Ohhh very nice! Wow. Jets? It looks like you hadn't reached the flying saucers yet either. Well done, and the 135500 as well!

  • @caver01 Thanks, yeah it was the jets level, I haven't seen the flying saucers yet...

  • @caver01 Wow really nice description here ! Good job !

  • New high: 168.700

    My strategy was to fly mainly diagonal upwards, primarily shoot planes in formation (meaning that I avoid planes and dodge bullets 80% of the time) and also shoot the bigger planes on level 2, because these also give more points. And naturally catch as many parachutes as you can. As soon as the progress bar in the bottom left is empty, I don't linger much (since no more parachutes fall at this point). Just destroy the "boss" and move on to the next level. I still haven't made it through to level 5.

    alt text

  • @andershp I may give it a try again tomorrow, but this is going to be hard to beat I think. Interesting strategy to go for the formations and dodge.

  • @caver01 on another note; are you using shaders on your build? The posts seem a bit barrelled and interlaced?
    If so, which are you using, and how do you browse them without a keyboard?

  • @andershp said in Arcade Classics: Time Pilot:

    @caver01 on another note; are you using shaders on your build? The posts seem a bit barrelled and interlaced?
    If so, which are you using, and how do you browse them without a keyboard?

    Indeed, I am! I use the vertical CRT-PI shader with barrel distortion added (it is disabled by default). You can edit the configs/all/retroarch.cfg and set the keys for next/prev shader to browse through them in-game (I attached a keyboard to do so), but I really don't browse them anymore, as CRT-PI is the best for everything except vector, and I use advmame for those anyway. Consequently, I have my curvature version of CRT-PI setup as default for all libretro cores, and I use per-rom configs for the vertical arcade games to switch to the vertical version.

  • @caver01 Cool, will try this out. And you don't sense that it's introducing latency or lag of any kind?

  • @andershp I suspect it does have an effect on performance, but for the games I enjoy, many are classics that already run well on the Pi3, so I don’t notice any ill effects. The higher the resolution of your display, the easier you will get away with the curvature. On some games it can create a distracting moire pattern. But for many games, especially ones with black backgrounds, you never see any artifacts and it creates a convincing barrel distortion effect that for me, adds to the nostalgia and looks even more like an old tube.

  • @caver01 said in Arcade Classics: Time Pilot:

    References (optional):

    Great post !

    What about adding links to specific overlays (when available, of course) in the "references" serction of these "Arcade Classics" posts?

    Additional info about this game's distribution:
    3 versions actually exist:
    Centuri and Konami (original) have similar graphics with slightly different marquee.
    Atari's (UK and Ireland) cabinet is (was) totally different.

    Overlays available for both Konami and Atariu versions in the Overlay Repo.

    alt text

    alt text

  • @udb23 Good info! I added appropriate edits to the OP. I also added the overlay link to the Joust post from a couple months ago.

  • @caver01 great, thanks !!
    So Readers find all info in one place :-)

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